Sunday: January 11th, 2004;
One of my most powerful experiences of God’s presence, being anointed with oil and prayed for according to James 5:14-16: I have an inter-denominational church background but they all stress the inerrancy of God’s Word, the Bible and the need for each individual to experience a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. I was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran denomination where I learned that as a sinful person by nature, I need to repent of my sin and shortcomings and that God’s forgiveness is based on placing my faith in Christ as the sacrifice for my sins and not in my own works, no matter how noble they may be. I have also spent many years attending independent Assembly of God churches (where my worship of God deepened and I became more aware of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life) as well as Baptist churches, where my submission to Biblical principles, truths and discipleship matured. Like any other natural process, our spiritual growth develops over time and exercising of our faith in God and His Word.
In early 2004, my wife Marie and I attended Faith Baptist Church, a small, country Baptist church located in the foothills of the Catoctin mountains in Maryland, near theVirginia and West Virginia borders. As I stated earlier, my pastor and the elders had planned to anoint me with oil and pray over me according to the practice described in James 5:14-16. This was a practice common to every denomination I had ever attended. These verses in James are often cited as the basis for God’s healing of physical diseases as well as forgiving of sins. (See James 5:14-16 in Scriptural Medicines.) I also have first-hand knowledge of specific individuals who have been healed from cancer as attested to by their physicians after being prayed for and anointed. I am cautiously optimistic but somewhat skeptical.
God often speaks to us when we least expect it. January 11th, 2004 was to be the 25th anniversary service of Faith Baptist Church. In dressing for church that morning, my mood was anything but confident, trusting, worshipful or joyful. I was still asking God why He had allowed this cancer to recur. I was not in any celebratory mood at all and could have just as well stayed home that morning. But I was part of the music program and choir at church so I put on my best face and with a doubtful attitude, asked God to show me something, anything in answers to my questions. There was a guest speaker that morning who spoke about how an ideal church should be. We should be like the Acts church, seeking God to deliver us and looking for the anointing of the Holy Spirit just like in Acts Chapter 2. I am in the choir loft and frankly, paid little attention to the sermon. However, as the sermon progressed in one ear and out the other, the still small inner voice I know to be the Holy Spirit starts to tell me to go forward and ask to be anointed with oil. An opposing inner voice urges me to wait until a more opportune time. After all, the pastor and elders had promised to do this shortly. The inner debate rages like a tennis match. Our service ended with a pastoral invitation for anyone who desired prayer to come forward to an altar. I decided it is now or never. At the invitation I look for two elders in the congregation and ask them to anoint me with oil and pray over me right there and now. Several other men join them. Someone looked for the small bottle of oil but they could not find it. I am kneeling at a simple altar railing and these men are praying for my healing while laying hands on my head and shoulders. I am not an emotional person and do not shed tears readily. But the feeling I experienced can only be described as being in a shower fully clothed. “Water” seemed to be pouring over me. Tears were rolling down the cheeks of many of us men. The Holy Spirit was so amazingly strong and it started to speak to me. I hear the distinct words “reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.” I remember thinking that I cannot do this in reality since Jesus is not physically present but I reached out my hand anyway. Tears flow from all of us. I also hear the words, “go and show yourself to the priests”, a term Jesus often used after healing someone in the New Testament. But he is applying it to me to mean “go and show yourself to physicians especially at Johns Hopkins.” I am confident that I have been touched in some way. As the service ended, I stood to my feet with a dazed look on my face. My wife Marie had been watching and could tell something very unusual was taking place. On the way home from church, I say to Marie “wouldn’t it be something if my PSA was zero?” She says prophetically, “it may have to go up before it goes down”. In short, I had never in my 62 years experienced God’s (or Jesus’) presence through the Holy Spirit as I did that Sunday. Am I healed? Will I be healed? What did this all mean? I had many lessons to learn and this was the beginning.
Tuesday, January 13th, 2004:
Coming down from the mountaintop into the valley. I drove to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore by myself for my appointments with the urologist and oncologists. En route, I listened to a CD by Steve Green entitled “Faithful” which contained a powerful song, “I Repent”. The singer is pleading for God to forgive his unbelief and misplacement of trust and as I listen, I ask for God’s forgiveness and spiritual renewal along with the song. A similar feeling comes over me similar to the emotions experienced last Sunday two days ago though not as strong. I am going to Johns Hopkins in confidence. I have to share my experience with the Hopkins physicians. During my visits, I did indeed have an opportunity to share my faith in Jesus and Sunday’s experience but the oncologists react with casual indifference. They seem to have heard such similar tales before. They prescribe a bone scan and a CT scan to be followed by radiation therapy to be performed at Frederick (near my work and home) each day for 7 weeks. They optimistically predict that the cure rate after radiation is 40%. They say my cancer is still residing near the original prostate site. Later that afternoon, I see my Johns-Hopkins urologist-surgeon who informs me that micrometastases have occurred. The thought of pockets of undetected, rapidly-dividing residual cancer cells scares me. How will they be found? My urologist is less optimistic than the oncologists and proclaims the “radiation cure rate” to be less than 40%.
Thursday, January 15th, 2004:
Facing the prospect of further treatment. My PSA is now 0.9. It will double in less than 10 months. It is more aggressive but my Gleason score was 6, which is average on the “aggressiveness” scale. My Hopkins urologist-surgeon states in an e mail that I should undergo radiation and that the PSA will fall but it is unclear for how long. He is concerned “that will not be the end of the problem.” He bases his conclusions on 2,500 patients he has treated since 1985. I am scared. My family physician and friend says he hopes radiation will sterilize the post-operative field as radiation does in breast cancer lumpectomy. He tells me he has two patients age 65 who underwent radical prostatectomy, had local recurrence and unsuccessful radiation therapy. Now after twenty years, they have PSAs in the 40’s and 80’s and are asymptomatic with respect to their cancer. One man is now 85 and very happy; while the other is depressive and has spent the last 20 years worrying about his cancer. He has not enjoyed the added years allotted. Ultimate results depend on other things than PSA, e.g. treatments, family, spiritual beliefs. One of the devotionals I read for this day cites John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.” I also received the word that when Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and started to do so himself, he sank when he started to look only at the surrounding turbulence. But when Peter fixed his eyes on Jesus only, he walked successfully on the water.
Sunday, January 18th, 2004:
Keep praying and trusting God’s plan and provision fervently. Before leaving for church in the morning, I was reminded strongly of the words of the old hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. The refrain says “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, o’ what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.” Lesson, I am to keep praying on a daily basis fervently.
Monday, January 19th, 2004:
Do the scriptures in James 5:14-16 refer to physical healing? Remembering God’s past deliverances. I have many questions. In the James 5:14-16, the word ‘healed’ in verse 16 seems to refer to physical healing of a limb. Meanwhile, in verse 15, the word used is ‘restore’ not ‘heal’. The word ‘restore’ is referred to as ‘save’ (see also James 5:20 and 1 Cor. 1:21, namely ‘saving those who believe’. So I am not sure if physical healing is guaranteed by the verses in James 5:14-15 but verse 16 seems to point to physical healing. I have always heard that theologians have differed on these interpretations. Meanwhile, how will God use me? Will He heal me? How many years will He give me? I cannot dwell solely on these questions but live each day as a gift from Him knowing and anticipating the eternity to come. I simply trust that Marie and I will have many years together from now on. I chose to be like the first patient my doctor described above and not the second. I must remember how God has helped me in the past. In February 1989, God delivered me from a potentially serious auto accident with only a mild concussion. In 1990, he delivered me from a life-threatening auto accident. In 1995, I required early prostate cancer surgery. In January 2001, angioplasty avoided a near heart attack. A stent was placed in my right coronary artery before I had a heart attack. God did not spare me these things but alerted me early and gave me immediate and excellent treatment. How will He deliver me now? How will he ‘heal’ me? I beg Him to do so.
Tuesday, January 21, 2004:
The sufficiency of God’s grace alone. The thorn in the flesh. Two passages were especially relevant from my daily devotionals. In the Daily Bread, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 spoke of the thorn in the flesh, a physical impairment which was given to the apostle Paul. God chose not to deliver Paul from this malady but the purpose of the “thorn” was to keep Paul from exalting himself. God may have given me recurrent prostate cancer to keep me humble and especially to keep me totally dependent on God for all things. In the past, when I have had no ‘thorn’, my prayer life and dependence on God decreased. I need to affirm as the apostle Paul did, that when I am weakest (in myself), then I am strongest (in Christ).
Friday, January 24th, 2004:
I jump to the worst conclusions. I went to Johns Hopkins for a CT scan and bone scan. The bone scan showed light areas in the vicinity of the three connecting bones of my replaced right hip. The radiologist asked if I had any pains. I said no. He said he saw soft tissue there and raised the possibility of metastases. He suggested I have a needle biopsy. My choices seemed to be: 1) If the biopsy shows metastatic cancer, I have two years of life; or, 2) perhaps there is another explanation related to my right hip transplant. I am devastated and scared to death. I am seeing the dark side of everything. All I can think of on Saturday/Sunday is the prospect of dying from prostate cancer in two years. I retreat to isolation. Jesus is all I have, but He is enough. I want this as my epitaph. We had dinner with my Maryland Pastor Ed and his wife, Joanne. They are truly faithful friends.
Saturday-Sunday, January 25-26th, 2004:
God often works behind the scenes in ways we don’t comprehend. Several good messages from Scripture. The Daily Bread devotional for Saturday references Acts 20:22-4; Paul is writing: “And now behold, bound in spirit” (I certainly am), “I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” The accompanying essay’s theme described how we should react to tragic events (as of Friday). I am to remain steadfast, anchored to Jesus as Paul was. People will fail me; physicians will also at times. But Jesus will never fail me. On Sunday, Pastor Ed’s sermon mentioned faith. I was reminded I had so little faith. How much faith do I need to be healed or otherwise delivered from this cancer? The verse in 2 Timothy 2:13 spoke to me: “If I am faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.”
The December 15th, 2003 issue of Nehemiah Notes by Blaine Smith focused on “Appreciating the Unseen Ways God Works for our Benefit.” We tend to obsess about the worst outcome that we can imagine. (This type of thinking applied to me and my father). My well being must come from trusting in Christ now in the present as well as the future. It’s easy to trust Christ for my eternal salvation since I have no other alternative but I must remember at this point that Christ is working behind the scenes in ways we cannot imagine. Negative pessimism can undermine our faith. In the book of Judges 7:9-15, God was working in ways unseen by Gideon to bring about his deliverance. It illustrated how God’s spiritual forces working behind the scenes to accomplish his purposes vastly exceed our comprehension or ability to imagine. He is providing and protecting me in so many unseen ways. Let my faith be encouraged that God is working behind the scenes.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2004:
“Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. I am to meditate on God’s wonderful works and his splendor and majesty. We need to quiet our distractions and hear God’s voice. We are to meditate not on our own words but quiet our minds to listen for the words of God. In prayer, we should talk less and listen more. Don’t dominate the conversation. If we do, then we are saying to God that our words are more important than His. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Wednesday, January 28th, 2004:
How to meditate on God’s Word. Joshua 1:8 tells us to meditate on God’s word day and night; do what it says and I will be prosperous and have success. The key word is meditate. How do I “meditate”? 1) Read God’s Word. 2) Pray it back to God; agree with the Word; affirm it in my life. 3) Apply what the Word says to my life. 4) Submit to God’s will as he unveils it stepwise.
Thursday, January 29th, 2004:
Sharing my experience. I shared my testimony of Jan. 11th where I was anointed and prayed over with my dentist. Whenever I share this testimony, my emotions swell and I get tearful. This is very unusual for me as I am not such an emotional person. On getting into the car and listening to a local Christian FM station, I heard the song “Wonderful, Merciful Savior”. Some of the lyrics speak of Jesus, the Healer. The words of the song echo in my spirit and I decide to play the song in church as a solo with the accompanying words on a screen.
Saturday, January 31st, 2004:
Seeing our life from an eternal perspective. Make each day count. The Daily Bread devotional from Psalm 90:12 recommended “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I ponder the brevity of life in comparison with eternity. Our earthly days pale in comparison with our eternal life to come. My mind cannot comprehend the concept of infinity or never-ending. But I am to make the most of my earthly life. To do so I should lose myself to the will of God (I Peter 4:2).
Sunday, February 1, 2004:
Be a vessel of Christ’s presence and character, While in church this morning, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that He was at work in the lives of physicians with whom I have contact especially those at Johns Hopkins. I was merely to be a vessel. I had been thinking whether or not I was to be completely healed or whether they were only to see my life’s evidence as my on-going treatments were done. I will persist in being a vessel knowing that what I am experiencing is God’s purpose for me and exactly what He wants me to do.
Thursday, February 5th, 2004:
Focus on Christ not on my circumstances. Don’t be anxious. I was taking two ProstaScint scans at Johns Hopkins when I was informed there were two spots of unknown origin on my chest and that additional scans would be needed. I initially got nervous but as I lay on the scanner, Jesus told me to focus on Him. I remembered just as Peter did when he tried to walk on water, when Peter looked down at his circumstances he began to sink, but as he fixed his eyes on Jesus, he was able to continue walking on water. I lay there consciously fixing my eyes on Jesus and actually fell asleep.
The Daily Bread devotional for that day quoted from Matthew 6:25-34, especially verse 27 which states “and which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life span?” When tempted to wonder if God cares about me, I should remember what Jesus did for me on the cross and how that demonstrates His love for me.
Friday, February 6th, 2004:
Micro-metastases located. A dark day. I am praying for God’s help. I do not want to die of this disease. My wife Marie and I are leaving for Florida. Prior to leaving I received the report from the oncologist at Johns Hopkins that the ProstaScint scans showed two tiny foci of metastases on the left supraclavicular region (neck) which may be a small lymph node and in the mid-abdomen (pelvis) on both sides of the pelvis. The pelvis is where prostate cancer usually spreads. There is nothing showing in bone, chest and nothing in hip. The physicians are now less optimistic about the prospects of radiation therapy. Before this, the oncologists told me that the cure rate was 30-40%. I am now out of the ‘cure’ category. Perhaps the radiation can be targeted also to the pelvic areas. Overall the prognosis is ‘favorable’, by doing radiation now and then watching the PSA and waiting. Perhaps 5-10 years will elapse. Then hormone treatment and/or clinical trials. Overall, they are not that familiar with the ProstaScint scans and how to interpret them. It’s reliability is also not fully understood. But the antibody used in the test only locates prostate cells, hence the results must be true. The oncologists are happy the metastases are not in bone. It seems that my Hopkins urologist-surgeon’s analysis is correct; he suspected micro metastases all along. But he is also optimistic. The oncologist’s comment was that he hoped I could be maintained in a chronic treatable situation, living with the disease but not curing it. A year was to elapse.
Radiation Therapy. The radiation therapy was performed locally in Frederick, Maryland. It was not painless and I felt nothing. Initially before radiation in January, 2004 my PSA was 0.9. I seemed to have few if any side effects of the radiation therapy although I now experience a slight bowel urgency which I did not have before. Perhaps this might be due to the radiation exposures but it does not present any real problems. After radiation therapy, my PSA was not undetectable. In fact, by October, 2004 it was 1.2. So radiation had not “cured me” and the micrometastases were still present somewhere in my body. The Hopkins physicians had been correct in their predictions. At the time, they felt that I could have even foregone the radiation therapy but I could take it “if it made me feel better”.
Tuesday, January 18th, 2005:
Unfortunately, my urologist’s prognosis came true much earlier than predicted. I went to my Hopkins urologist-surgeon for a check up. My PSA in October, 2004 was 1.16; today it was 1.1. Obviously, radiation did not cure me. Micrometastases are present. The urologist predicted that I should have no trouble until I am between 73 and 80 years old. I am 63 at the time of this prediction. He continued that perhaps some symptoms would then arise and the PSA would increase. At that time in my 70’s, I could undergo hormonal therapy. I am to do nothing now; just watch my PSA. Looking back at this now, my PSA began to rise in the spring of 2005 and hormonal therapy was initiated in August, 2006, much earlier than my urologist’s prediction.
Meanwhile, I had recorded in writing my vivid experiences with God and Jesus when I was anointed and prayed over in January, 2004. I gave the urologist-surgeon my letter about my experiences. I had been moderately hopeful about being healed, i.e. PSA = 0. But I was somewhat disappointed when it wasn’t. I shared my letter with him which he accepted joyfully. He started to read it in his office. He told me it reminded him of a priest-friend who had similar experiences and who lived his life on a ‘higher plane’. I now started to ask God why he hadn’t healed me. On my way to work, Thursday, Jan. 20th, the Lord reminded me of the story about the raising of Lazarus from the dead, when Martha said to Jesus, “if only you had come sooner, Lazarus would not have died.” I took this to mean “don’t worry, God can heal me in His time, not on my schedule.” At this point I am looking forward to the next ten years. My focus is changing. I am asking questions of God, looking for more eternal perspectives. I am also pleading with God to heal me and to not let me die of prostate cancer.
Jesus speaks clearly to me (or God sings over me) in the midst of a snowstorm.My wife and I lived on a mountaintop home in Maryland and our jobs were about twenty (20) minutes from our home. One morning we awoke to a predicted snowstorm accompanied by howling 50 mph northwest winds. We had two vehicles but only one of them was an all-wheel-drive vehicle, more suitable for snow. My wife had taken the all-wheel drive vehicle and arrived safely at her office. Meanwhile I was left with the chore of shoveling out the other vehicle and driving to my job. The snow had been piling up to over a foot. The winds were creating large drifts. I was frantically trying to shovel a path for my car. But as I shoveled, the winds kept blowing the snow right back into my path and into my face. The more I shoveled, the deeper the snow. I was getting nowhere fast and my anger and frustration were growing exponentially. My face was full of ice and snow and I looked like an Eskimo in a National Geographic magazine. I soon realized I was not going to get to work that day. In my anger and frustration, I phoned my wife and exclaimed that when I retire in 2006, we would be on Interstate 95 heading for Florida in the blink of an eye. I went back to the driveway and tried to resume my shoveling but only got more angry and frustrated. In the midst of this totally un-Christian mindset and attitude, that inner voice that I have come to know is that of God or Jesus speaking through the Holy Spirit, began to recite the words of a hymn that I had come to love, namely “’Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus”. As I stood there with snow, ice and slush on my face, all my anger and frustration were instantly replaced by an intense feeling of awe as if in the presence of royalty, in this case, the King of Kings. Tears welled up in my eyes instantly as the inner voice began to recite as follows. “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word” (a lesson I have had to learn over and over again, namely to trust His Word only), “just to rest upon His promise, just to know ‘thus says the Lord.’ “Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him, how I’ve proved Him ‘oer and ‘oer, Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, O’ for grace to trust Him more.” The song message took 30-40 intense seconds. When it was over, I knew it wasn’t from my own subconscious because such Christian thoughts were the furthest from my mind just prior to their deliverance. I had been muttering under my breath in complete anger and frustration when the sudden message came. I stood motionless for quite a while basking in the encouragement that the words had produced. Some time later, it was told to me that God is known to “sing over His children” as expressed in Zephaniah 3:17, which states: “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (from the New King James Version of the Bible). I had never experienced God’s sudden and totally unexpected presence as I did this day and have not to the present. But I am as sure of His message as I can be because it came to me when such thoughts were the absolute farthest from my mind.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005:
Hormonal therapy prescribed earlier than predicted; a revised future strategy. Initial consideration of spiritual aspects of prostate cancer.I saw my Hopkins urologist-surgeon. My PSA had doubled within 5 months to 3.8. He now suggested that hormonal therapy be commenced. He said that most recent studies have shown that hormonal therapy initiated earlier is better than if done later. Meanwhile I had shared my situation with one of my physician colleagues at the National Cancer Institute whose research focused on prostate cancer. He concurred with the Hopkins urologist’s decision who now recommends a CT and bone scan to be done at Frederick and another PSA done in 6 months. After that they may proceed with hormonal therapy which should decrease the PSA levels to negligible for some time. The Hopkins urologist encourages me by stating he has patients who have been on hormonal therapy for 16 years. The potential side effects of hormonal therapy include impotence, hot flashes, weight gain and depression among others. As it turned out, in addition to the expected impotence, my hot flashes were minimal but I did gain about 10 pounds. On the whole, the side effects were mild and easily handled. Most importantly however, the Hopkins urologist-surgeon asked me to read a book written by a physician who had prostate cancer and how this physician had dealt with the spiritual aspects of his disease. I agree to do so. My urologist wants to share this book in discussing the spiritual aspects of disease with his medical students. But I sense God has other purposes here. My urologist also mentioned how important it is to have one physician be the point-of-contact which he offers to be for me. My relationship with him as my surgeon and urologist is obviously a God-ordained one. He also thought it possible I could live a ‘normal’ lifespan with a chronic prostate cancer just as my NCI colleague had said. God reinforced in me His presence in all of this. God obviously sees the bigger picture and He is still at work. Healing as defined by a negligible PSA is definitely not out of the question but is looking less likely. I believe God wants to reveal Himself through my condition. We also spoke about dying from prostate cancer and that bone pain can be controlled. My Hopkins urologist-surgeon reiterated his devotion to my case and his availability for any future problems, for which I am immensely grateful.